It’s just stuff. That was my mantra for an entire year as I cleaned out my mom’s house. Russian china, Persian rugs, broken vacuums, Afghan jewelry, worn towels, tax returns, ancient coins, personal notebooks. It was an eclectic mix of valuable items and lots of junk. My house could not hold all that stuff, so I had the challenge of getting rid of it. Guilt ensued. Everything had a memory for her.
And then it clicked .. those were HER memories.
It took a year to get to the stage where I could get rid of her stuff and not feel bad. My brother and I took a few items that truly held sentimental value. Then we had friends walk through the house and take whatever they wanted. We filled a dumpster and a half with the junk, we sold some practical stuff on Craigslist, we sold some stuff at an auction, we gave away some stuff on Freecycle, we donated some stuff to Habitat for Humanity, and we called a junk company to do the final sweep of the stuff in the house. The common denominator? It was just stuff.
In the end, I know why she left the stuff. She was tired and she didn’t feel like making those decisions. She was 80 years old and she had a lot of memories attached to her stuff. Throwing out the stuff would mean devaluing the memories. She didn’t accept that the memories could live in our heads – without the stuff.
I do plan to leave less stuff to my kids. But I’m not sure if I’m doing a good job just yet. My guest room is full of boxes of stuff (mostly my mom’s stuff). My office cabinets are full of stuff. My closet is full of stuff. And I just ordered more stuff online. The cycle continues … and I think my mom would be humored that I still have so much stuff!